Anti-Social Media

Do people really like being social? At Rosh Hashana services yesterday, the rabbi asked everyone in the congregation to take a few minutes to introduce themselves to the people in front of them, behind them, next to them, etc.  This, was a way of getting people to open up, break the ice. It was a good exercise for me, personally, as I don’t get much of a chance to make small talk with my husband. That said, it was quite amazing how many people did not heed his call. Staring at their watches until the 2 minutes passed or hunkering down with their prayer books, half of the congregants were cringing at the idea of this “forced socializing.”

The 2 minutes did not come soon enough for these folks. Of course, there were others who wouldn’t stop talking even after 120 seconds passed.  Makes me wonder: are the loquacious/seemingly extroverted folks the same ones who are engaging in social media online? Or is it the quiet/seemingly anti-social folks who are the ones more comfortable online chatting with strangers and espousing their views?

Have social media sites made people less friendly in person and more friendly online? To me, the scene was representative of the new Web 2.0: most people come to social media sites and soak in the information before them but don’t participate. And there’s the vocal minority who keep the conversation flowing and want to be heard. The more things change, the more they stay the same, when it comes to human nature.

  • Vlad Gorshkov

    This is an interesting point, and it does underscore the fact that some people are more social than others. This follows Chris Anderson’s long tail theory, according to which most of the conversation would be driven by a few very vocal people. What I would note, however, is that the definition of participation has changed.

    Take a look at Facebook, for example. Once you set up a profile, you don’t have to do much to take part in the dialogue. The site amplifies the smaller changes you make and makes them a part of the online dialogue, even if you don’t care to broadcast them. All it takes is a change in you profile, a relationship status for example, and suddenly Facebook has broadcast the news to all of your friends. In the context of your life, this might not even seem like a big deal, but Facebook takes it out of context and tells it like it is.

    “Wait. Jenny is no longer in a relationship? What happened?!” You see what I mean?

    Oftentimes, you have to do nothing at all to take part in the dialogue! Remember that event you went to and all of those pictures of you that were tagged with your name and a link to your profile? Those get broadcast to your friends as well. The owners of those photos become your self-appointed spokesperson. They do the talking for you!

    Like the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words,” you are saying a lot through those pictures–where you were, who you were with, what you were doing. If you don’t want to say those things, you have to untag yourself. But, in this case, the effort that is required NOT to talk is actually greater than is required to do so.

    Facebook is just one example. The thing is that even the less social people are taking part in the online conversations. They may not be the loudest people in the room, but their whispers are magnified by the setup of the social network. And even if they themselves manage to say nothing, somebody else might speak for them.

  • Kristie Vento

    There are many people who, by nature of the business of e-mail today, are just better at communicating in writing than they are in person. I am not sure that it has to do with the label of being an anti-soc…I think it might have to do with the fact that we have become very adept at communicating quickly, thoughtfully and at our own leisure in the on-line space, which gives us more time to actual prepare our thoughts, focus on what we are “saying/writing” and formulate our message very deliberately.

    In a public forum there is zero margin for communicative error, so we are putting ourselves at a much greater risk; ah, the joys of the DELETE key…

    So, I am sure there are many who cringe at the thought of social interaction, but I wouldn’t make the case that those who prefer on-line communications might be anti-social…just very cautious about the context within which they are communicating.

    Social media gives you the ability to stage a suggestion, make an opinion and to write to your heart’s content…all while not worrying about saying the “wrong” thing…well, some do, anyway…

  • Monique

    Very interesting observation. I fall in the category of a social person in everyday life who rarely takes the time to communicate/socialize online (your article inspired me to comment). I’m also reminded of a service I attended recently in a very historic African American neighborhood where the congregation was friendlier than at any church service I had ever attended–which leads me to believe culture plays a large part in real-life socialization v. online socialization.

  • Jane Lundwall

    It’s funny to watch the media today- these folks on news shows are NOT Journalists – they don’t know the first thing about reporting fairly and objectively. You open yourself up to criticism in any public positionm sure – but, let’s get real – they are digging dirt and if they can’t get any, they make it up!

    Is it a wonder why people don’t want to share “themselves” with strangers? Is it a true mystery why folks keep to themselves and not want to share personal information with others?

    I’d love to see an article about MEDIA ETHICS – seems most stations have thrown that out the window these days – for political gain, ratings, shear #’s? At the expense of people’s lives and reputations? If people are uncomfortable about shaking hands with strangers sitting behind them in the SAME synagog, can you just imagine putting yourself out there in the public eye – where all of your dirty laundry can be flashed across a national screen, for all to see, and judge and criticize? Where are our morals and values and ethics today? Shame on the media – shame on the smutt and the dirty politics, shame on the self-serving folks who only care about lining their pockets at the end of the day – no matter who they step on our crush or destroy in the process. No surprises to find ourselves in the situation we are currently in today! ETHICS – MORALS – VALUES – let’s start focusing on that and maybe, just maybe, we won’t be afraid in the future to help someone in need, smile at someone walking down the street, greet the stranger we ride up in the elevator with – WHAT are we teaching our children? That’s the worst of all.

    Thanks for letting me share – I could go on you know!!! Are we all Americans? Truly? I wonder sometimes – the “us” and “thems” of the DIVIDED STATES. It’s all very sad to me!

  • Brian Camen

    I have to agree with Kristie. Some people find it easier to communicate online. They know that there is no delete key in person. You can take back something you say in person, but it still has meaning because you said it. Online, one can review and edit their comments.

    I don’t think social media sites have changed how we act in person, they have just opened up the door for more and more interactive communication.

    Just for the record, if my Rabbi made me introduce myself to my neighbors sitting around me for two minutes, I would still be talking when he tells the congregation to stop

  • http://NA Dianne Haynes

    Another good blog to start my day with news from around the globe. I have taken a moment to reflect on this notion of religious social networking in my own life, having “turned” to the person next to me in my house of worship more than once. I shook hands and never saw the person again, which is unlike my childhood memory which is filled with great times not in the adult services. The fun part of religion is what I remember, the navity of we are all honest, and good citizens of the world. Today my city of upbringing is not the same as it was, the melting pot holds another new wave of children and parents socializing in a new house of prayer which holds no connection in social culture of my upbringing. I am an outsider now, with nothing culturally, socially, or religiously to keep me in the past which I recall of growing up “American” with cherry pies on Washington’s birthday. I am a student of the globe, and today am trying to find the “social” network, and “fit” to enjoy turning to my fellow worshiper as if it is the natural way of giving to the peace I recall as a naive child in a safe house of worship. How many of us even have the few moments left over from volunteering for the community, schools, house of worship, charitable events to place our own loved ones and ourself first after hitting the internet to check if our banks are safe with our money. We pass the plate for those in sharing, and in each home today we pass with a “sale” sign, who is going to share to save a family today in each of the “handshakes” we forget all too quickly.

    Again, tks you two for the moments of writing which perk us to think, and respond….

  • Norman Birnbach

    From what I’ve seen, people in the Web 2.0 world can be very social, friendly and supportive — sometimes especially because people don’t actually see everyone else. But too many blogs and comments to articles can be snarky and divisive for the same reason: because they don’t actually have to see the other people. I asked a similar question on my blog,
    Do Social Networks & Video-sharing Sites Bring People Closer Together? (

  • Eric Reid

    I have a feeling more people use social media to broadcast what they think, though blogs or Twitter or whatever, but don’t reciprocate with comments. That is, there is a greater tenancy to talk then there is to listen.

    But as for the congregation, personally, I don’t think social media teaches us to be social online but not in public. I think it’s a bit sadder than that: Because none of use want to know anything about any strangers who are around us, the only way some people feel safe socializing is online.

    For instance, I’d bet you the chatty ones you mentioned would never use Facebook, saying, “why bother with a page to keep up with friends? I can just call them up or take them out to lunch!”

  • Lisa

    I think that it’s not necessarily a matter of becoming less friendly, it seems to be more a matter of convenience and ease. Even the phone can feel like a distraction now! While we’re able to connect with a much wider circle we’ve become very reliant on speed and ease of communication and social networks allow us to do that.

    It’s funny, during the VP debates last week I found myself updating my status on Facebook by the second, adding my commentary, and wishing there was an IM feature!

  • Katalyn

    I completely agree with this post. I feel that people are becoming less social in person but more social online. I think this has to do with Web 2.o as mentioned above, but I also feel that the lack of face-to-face communication has a great amount to do with my generation, the millennials.

    We grew up using instant messaging, e-mail and texts to communicate instead of calling someone on the phone. Facebook, which was once only for college students, allowed us to know everything about complete strangers. Now Twitter and blogs are allowing us to stay updated on what people are doing and saying without knowing them personally. Social media and the millennial generation are changing how we communicate.

  • http://NA Dianne Haynes


    Facebook is great! A former neighbor, in a different state, spoke to me on the phone, and told me about her daughter reviewing my son’s photo on facebook…Well, I then called and asked about this photo which I had not seen, as he was in college at the time (out of state). Keeping up with family, work, and all the activities that helped send my son to college, I did not have the time to shut the door in my home, to my own room, and spend hours on the internet. I have time today, and so do many of my older and younger friends. Not many of them were, or in the entertainment, public relations world, so they are not used to being “out” blogging, or writing a news story. The new college social network site,(facebook is old now,)is for networking, and for work purposes. Networking for work is something a lot of people do in public, to come face to face, and to speak to other people. Houses of worship were and have been used for networking in work and communities business sectors, as well as volunteering. Not to say social networks are not fun and a great way to build a network and business. Reading about a person’s life who moved to the “hills” outside her natural work environment in corporations, the woman today is on the radio, has published a few books, and has subscribers throughout the nation. Nan Russell, “In the scheme of things.” Social networking can be a great way to build a network to help build a business, or career. It is great for all generations who care to partake. PS: I liked your link!

  • S Jackson

    I found this fascinating and posted a link to it on a social medium I participate in called, a knitting and fiber arts forum that is still in beta stage, but growing in leaps and bounds. Never assume that knitters are mousy recluses; there are some wild and funky people out there with needles in their hands. Ravelry is not only a social setting, it’s quickly becoming a knitting encyclopedia/handbook. Users may never “speak out loud” but they visit often for pointers and entertainment.

  • Iris Dias

    Social media sites have definitely made people less social – that and text messaging.

    Some of my closest friends I only ever communicate with over MSN, or Facebook, or through my blog. Not because I don’t love them dearly, but because time zones, and work schedules make it difficult to connect in a person-to-person manner.

  • A

    While I certainly love Facebook for making it so easy to communicate with friends and family across the states, it also has become its own being. Suddenly, everyone has an opinion and everyone has the courage to say it (er, type it). While it’s a social network for keeping people connected, how can you base your entire human interaction around a keyboard and moniter? I think Facebook gives power to the anti-social, gives them that necessary “delete” key. But to those that were never afraid, Facebook is their soapbox. I’d like to say I remain neutral between the two extremes, but we ARE in a digital age, and I AM responding to a blog posting… Regardless, nothing will ever replace goood ole’ face to face communication.

  • Laurie | Your Ill-fitting Overcoat

    This is a great point!

    I have an acquaintance who reads my blog avidly and frequently contacts me on Facebook and gchat, but when I see her in person, she acts like she doesn’t know who I am! She’s painfully shy, but it’s easy for her to be herself from the other side of the computer screen.

    In this case, does social media help her relationships or hurt them? I’d say that it helps them overall. If I’d only ever socialized with her in person, I’d probably read her shyness as snobbery and I wouldn’t realize what a smart, interesting person she is.

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